Toward the end of President Ronald Reagan’s eight years in office ending in early 1989, his Attorney General, Ed Meese, asked him what he considered his biggest regret. According to Meese, Reagan told him that it was signing the 1986 Amnesty. Reagan had been uncomfortable with the concept of amnesty and reluctant to sign the bill, but he was persuaded by “moderate” Republicans that the numbers would not be significant, and compromise was necessary to get the Democrats to vote for badly needed enforcement provisions of the bill.
Reagan was persuaded that the amnesty would apply to no more than a million illegal immigrants in the country. The actual number was approximately 2.7 million thanks to weak enforcement of the provisions of the amnesty and rampant fraud—at least 25 percent. Moreover, the number of illegal immigrants in the country had obviously been underestimated.
In addition, the Democrat and liberal Republican promises to implement the enforcement measures of the 1986 bill were ignored, and illegal immigrants continued to pour into the country.
By 1990, Congress realized that illegal immigration was even more out of control and created the Jordan Commission to study immigration issues and make recommendations to Congress. The Jordan Commission report and recommendations were released in 1995 and presented to Congress in 1997.
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